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RR503 - An inventory of fibres to classify their potential hazard and risk

Although there is considerable knowledge of the hazards and risks of asbestos and machine made vitreous fibres (MMVF), there are many other fibre types in production and use. These include: synthetic, some semi-synthetic fibres (eg cellulosic fibres) which are sometimes referred to as machine-made (or man-made) organic fibres (MMOFs) and also a range of other non-organic fibres and whiskers and specialist technical fibres including various types of carbon fibres and nanofibres. This project was designed to carry out an audit of these “other” fibres based either on available data or by making a series of measurements of their physical dimensions, properties and behaviour. This included bench scale assessments of the solubility and dustiness, if the fibres were found to be small enough to be inhalable.

The data generated was used to identify fibres that may potentially be hazardous or give rise to a risk and merit further investigation. Available published information on the toxicity of specific fibres was also collected and organised along with the physical and descriptive data in a Microsoft Access database. This report summarises the types of fibres in use or close to market, the manufacturing processes and the methods used for data collection and physical characterisation.

It was found that the new technologies which allow the production of much finer conventional fibres that can be used on existing textile machinery, along and the many high performance technical fibres and textiles in production, are of concern.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2009-05-01